Multiple suspected cases of squirrelpox from Cardrona in the Scottish Borders have been reported to Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels in recent weeks.
Sightings and photographs of sick red squirrels, believed to be suffering from squirrelpox, have been reported to us from Cardrona and the surrounding area. While we investigate the situation further, we ask people living in the area to please remove wildlife feeders from your gardens in order to avoid spreading the disease to healthy red squirrels visiting the feeders.
Squirrelpox is a virus carried by grey squirrels without causing them any harm. However, if spread to red squirrels the disease is deadly. Feeding stations can encourage both species to come into close contact and increase the risk of spreading disease. If sick red squirrels are present in an area, they can transmit the disease to other red squirrels via feeding stations.
Squirrelpox causes red squirrels to develop wet pus-filled lesions on their faces, particularly around the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as on their paws and genitalia. They become unwell and the lesions make it difficult to eat or drink, climb or walk, in almost all cases leading to death within two weeks.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels asks people to remain vigilant for any further incidences of sick red squirrels in or near the Cardrona area and to please report them by contacting local Community Engagement Officer, Sarah Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, at this time, SSRS are unable to fully confirm the presence of squirrelpox as the experts who carry out post mortem investigations are currently not operating due to coronavirus restrictions. However, photographs and videos of the squirrel are extremely useful in helping determine whether symptoms correlate with those presented by squirrelpox.
Please note, that while there is no evidence that squirrelpox can cause any harm to humans, sensible hygienic precautions should be undertaken when approaching any dead or sick wild animal.
A poster with information on the symptoms of squirrelpox and the actions that people can take locally has been created for those living in or near Cardrona. This can be downloaded to share digitally, or to print out and display in a car window or your home. Please refrain from displaying posters in public spaces at this time to adhere to government guidelines.
For those living elsewhere in Tweeddale, please ensure that all garden feeding stations are regularly cleaned with an anti-viral solution such as Virkon S, which is available to purchase online in tablet and powder form. If you see any sick red squirrels or grey squirrels at the feeding stations, please take them down and contact email@example.com.
All other sightings can be reported through our website at https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/squirrel-sightings/.